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    Science & Technology

    Reflect, Explain, Apply: Transforming Chem 301

    By Mason Jones
    Tara Doolittle
    Published: Nov. 19, 2012

    Jimmy Wadman bombed his first two chemistry tests.

    A disturbing result for the then-freshman, who had graduated near the top of his class at Lamar High School near Houston. Once the shock wore off, he picked himself up and started listening to what his professors Cynthia Labrake and David Vanden Bout were saying: Reflect, explain, apply. Reading and memorizing were not going to cut it.

    Wadman wasn’t in any ordinary class. He was participating in the pilot Chemistry 301 course in the university’s Course Transformation Program, which is finding more effective ways to teach large, introductory level courses. The solution is a hybrid approach that uses the latest in educational technology and the best practices in teaching: robust in-class discussion, video modules to supplement readings, team teaching models and immediate student feedback.

    “It’s a powerful way to approach learning,” he says. “At the time I didn’t realize that this was a ‘new’ way of learning, but it’s changed the way I view all my courses.”

    He pulled up his grades and is now a learning assistant for the class as a sophomore. While Labrake and Vanden Bout guide the class, Wadman works with groups of students, prodding them to apply the concepts, test themselves and reflect on the learning process.

    “I learned that I love chemistry and I love teaching,” Wadman says. “In that course transformation, I found a personal transformation.”

    • Quote 2
      Bob said on Dec. 18, 2012 at 12:51 p.m.
      Total rip off of military mantra: "See one, do one, teach one." Nicely reworded for an academic environment. Glad to see UT-A has finally caught up with the US Army in teaching.
    • Quote 2
      Nena Marshall said on Dec. 16, 2012 at 3:45 p.m.
      Wonderful concept for teaching and achieving positive outcomes for students. We can all learn from Jimmy's perseverance in turning a situation around that was a plus for all. Bravo! Fine, young, intelligent student!!
    • Quote 2
      Kyle said on Dec. 3, 2012 at 1:17 p.m.
      Sounds great, but I do wonder about the danger of these "educational assistants" being taken advantage of as cheap labor. Are undergraduates really in the best position to be teaching other undergraduates?
    • Quote 2
      Kayee said on Dec. 2, 2012 at 3:39 p.m.
      Well, it really comes down to poor instruction in high schools today and study habits. In addition, unchallenging material combined with grade inflation, give students a false perception of success. I've met a bunch of different people at UT would say they'd just look at the book and get an A. Their whole HS life is just smooth sailing and they end up with a 4.0 GPA, valedictorian etc. But what do those numbers and titles represent? Nothing whatsoever; they've just wasted 4 years of their life barely learning anything to prepare for college. Then, they get overwhelmed once they're in college. What does that tell us about the effectiveness of the U.S. education system?
    • Quote 2
      Natasha said on Nov. 29, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.
      Wonderful video about an accomplished and articulate young man. I believe he will be very successful in imparting what he has learned to other students. Excellent program.
    • Quote 2
      Saltele said on Nov. 22, 2012 at 4:07 p.m.
      “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” -Aristotle-
    • Quote 2
      Tanna said on Nov. 22, 2012 at 7:35 a.m.
      This makes me feel better about going in as a natural science major! I'm a bit nervous about the initial chemistry classes. Sounds like this is going to be exciting rather than scary. Looking forward to it!
    • Quote 2
      Leon said on Nov. 21, 2012 at 2:36 p.m.
      wow, that's very inspirational. I totally agree. Innovative new techniques and hands on interaction are needed in the classroom more often.
    • Quote 2
      Samuel Winchester said on Nov. 20, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.
      Nice work!
    • Quote 2
      Juliette said on Nov. 20, 2012 at 1:32 p.m.
      Really enjoyed this article about an innovative way to teach a large class. New approaches to old problems aren't always successful. Sounds like this one is a winner! Plus the student teacher sounds like a cool young man.
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